It’s a small area – a mere one kilometre square, roughly. Squalid and neglected. But it’s at the heart of a crucial experiment.
To create a model for sustainable urban renewal and economic revival for Kolkata neighbourhoods.
The CHA Project (Cities • Heritage • Architecture) in association with INTACH is introducing Placemaking in a structured way to Kolkata.
The concept of Placemaking is nothing new; but it has lately been getting a lot of attention around the world as a powerful economic development tool. By bringing together the community, government agencies and stakeholders in a coordinated manner to spearhead infrastructure improvements, design interventions, civic engagements, festivals etc, The Cha Project plans to transform an undervalued heritage precinct into a vibrant public space that people want to spend time in. What is now a pile of garbage and a warren of slums is being transformed – through Placemaking – into a revenue generating, sustainable, bustling neighbourhood with food streets, heritage trails and night market.
The Cha Project is a creative Placemaking and Design Studio. We make public spaces come alive. Spaces that engage, enrich, inspire. Starting with Kolkata’s Old Chinatown or Cheenapara.
At the heart of this revival is a powerful Sustainability Story. The revival is about jobs for the marginalised, heritage conservation, promoting local businesses, everything geared towards a sustainable economic revival. The most exciting part is that most resources for the makeover will be with surplus material from construction sites, leftovers from paint jobs, donations from the construction industry – curated to create a beautiful big picture. We are not demolishing existing structures to build swank new plazas – we are merely cleaning up, beautifying and preserving what already exists. We are helping to give buildings a new lease of life through adaptive re-use. We hope to set a beautiful example of Placemaking that can be replicated in other neighbourhoods as well.
Creative Placemaking includes place activation through events, and the next big one that we are working towards is the Kolkata Night Festival in the alleys and bylines of Cheenapara. It promises to be a vibrant celebration of food, history, arts, culture and community.
The Cha Project, founded by Rinkoo Bhowmik, is a social enterprise based in Singapore, and recognised by the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprises (raiSE). Our partner in Kolkata is the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), headed by heritage enthusiast GM Kapur. Team details to be up soon.